Sleeper (1973 film)

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Sleeper ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Robert McGinnis
Directed byWoody Allen
Produced byJack Grossberg
Written byWoody Allen
Marshall Brickman
StarringWoody Allen
Diane Keaton
John Beck
Marya Small
Susan Miller
Music byWoody Allen
CinematographyDavid M. Walsh
Edited byO. Nicholas Brown
Ron Kalish
Ralph Rosenblum
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • December 17, 1973 (1973-12-17)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[1]
Box office$18,344,729[1]

Sleeper is a 1973 American futuristic science fiction comedy film, directed by Woody Allen and written by Allen and Marshall Brickman. The plot involves the adventures of the owner of a health food store who is cryogenically frozen in 1973 and defrosted 200 years later in an ineptly led police state. The film contains many elements which parody notable works of science fiction and was made as a tribute to comedians Groucho Marx and Bob Hope.


Miles Monroe (Woody Allen), a jazz musician and owner of the "Happy Carrot" health-food store in 1973, is subjected to cryopreservation without his consent, and not revived for 200 years.[2] Two scientists (played by Bartlett Robinson and Mary Gregory) revive him. They are members of an underground rebellion. The U.S. in 2173 is a hedonistic, automated police state, ostensibly ruled by a dictator known only as "The Leader", about to implement a secret plan known as the "Aries Project". The rebels hope to use Miles as a spy to infiltrate the Aries Project, because he is the only member of this society without a known biometric identity.

The authorities discover the scientists' project, and arrest them, where they are taken for interrogation and torture. Miles escapes by disguising himself as a robot, and goes to work as a butler in the house of socialite Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton). When Luna decides to have his head replaced with something more "aesthetically pleasing", Miles reveals his true identity to her, whereupon Luna threatens to give Miles to the authorities. In response, he kidnaps her and goes on the run, searching for the Aries Project.

Miles and Luna fall in love, but Miles is captured and brainwashed into becoming a complacent member of the society, while Luna joins the rebellion. The rebels kidnap Miles and perform reverse-brainwashing, whereupon he remembers his past and joins their efforts. Miles becomes jealous when he catches Luna kissing the rebel leader, Erno Windt (John Beck), and she tells him that she believes in free love.

Miles and Luna infiltrate the Aries Project, wherein they quickly learn that the national Leader had been killed by a rebel bomb ten months previously. All that survives is his nose. Other members of the Aries Project, mistaking Miles and Luna for doctors, expect them to clone the leader from this single remaining part. Miles steals the nose and "assassinates" it by dropping it in the path of a road roller.

After escaping, Miles and Luna debate their future together. He tells her that Erno will inevitably become as corrupt as the Leader. Miles and Luna confess their love for one another, but she claims that science has proven men and women cannot have meaningful relationships due to chemical incompatibilities. Miles dismisses this, saying that he does not believe in science, and Luna points out that he does not believe in God or political systems either. Luna asks Miles if there is anything he does believe in, and he responds, "Sex and death — two things that come once in a lifetime — but at least after death, you're not nauseous."[3] The film ends as the two embrace and kiss.


  • Woody Allen as Miles Monroe, the former owner of a health food store from the 1970s
  • Diane Keaton as Luna Schlosser, an artist from the 22nd century
  • Don Keefer as Doctor Tryon, one of the two scientists who oversee Miles's rehabilitation from cryosleep
  • Bartlett Robinson and Mary Gregory as Doctor Orva and Doctor Melik, respectively, the scientists who oversee Miles's rehabilitation from cryosleep; both are captured by the government and taken away
  • John Beck as Erno Windt, the leader of the rebellion
  • Marya Small as Doctor Nero, the physician who oversees Miles's reprogramming into 22nd century life
  • Spencer Milligan and Stanley Ross as gay couple Jeb Hrmthmg and Sears Swiggles, respectively.
  • Peter Hobbs as Doctor Dean, the leading physician come to witness Our Leader's cloning
  • Douglas Rain as the voice of Bio Central Computer 2100, Series G, the computer aiding in Our Leader's cloning.[3]
  • Whitney Rydbeck as the voice of Janus, Tryon and Melik's robot butler.
  • John Cannon as the voice of Rags, Miles's robot dog
  • Jackie Mason as the voice of Cohen, one of the two robot tailors of Ginsberg & Cohen.[4]
  • Lou Picetti as the Bert Parks-like Miss America emcee
  • Chris Forbes as Rainer Krebs, a brief romantic interest of Miles
  • Read Morgan as the representative at Domesticon
  • Brian Avery, Susan Miller, Regis Cordic, and George Furth as Luna's party guests
  • John McLiam and Jerry Hardin as scientists at Miles's revival
  • Jeff Maxwell and Seamon Glass as security guards
  • Albert Popwell as a reprogramming technician
  • Jessica Rains as the woman in the Gyro-Mirror, whose channel Miles accidentally accesses while he is shaving and she is gargling

The image of Timothy Leary is used for Our Leader


The film was shot in and around Denver, Colorado. The outdoor shots of the hospital were filmed at the Table Mesa Laboratory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

There is a brief shot of the main building of the Denver Botanic Gardens and of the concrete lamp posts.

The Sculptured House, designed by architect Charles Deaton, is a private home known locally since the film was shot as the "Sleeper House" located on Genesee Mountain near Genesee Park, west of Denver. The Mile Hi Church of Religious Science[5] in Lakewood, Colorado was turned into a futuristic McDonald's, featuring a sign counting the number sold: 795 followed by 51 zeroes.[6]

Author Christopher Turner has suggested that the orgasmatron, the electromechanical device that Monroe encounters, was a parody of Wilhelm Reich's orgone accumulator.[7][8]


Sleeper opened at the Coronet and Little Carnegie theatres in New York City on December 17, 1973.[9] It received positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a 100% approval rating based on 34 reviews, with an average rating of 8.03/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "In Sleeper, Woody Allen's madcap futurist comedy, practically each joke and one-liner hits its target."[10]

Vincent Canby, in The New York Times, called the film "terrific", saying it "confidently advances the Allen art into slapstick territory that I associate with the best of Laurel and Hardy. It's the kind of film comedy that no one in Hollywood has done with style in many years, certainly not since Jerry Lewis began to take himself seriously. Sleeper is a comic epic that recalls the breathless pace and dizzy logic of the old two-reelers."[11] Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ out of four stars, saying Allen "gives us moments in Sleeper that are as good as anything since the silent films of Buster Keaton."[2]


In 1973, the film was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II, the 32nd World Science Fiction Convention, in Washington, D.C.[12]

In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Sleeper the 30th Greatest Comedy Film of All Time.

In 2000, American Film Institute included the film in its list AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs (#80).[13]

In October 2013, the film was voted by readers of the UK's The Guardian as the tenth best film directed by Allen.[14]

Film as tribute[edit]

Aspects of the film's storyline are similar to the plot of the 1910 H. G. Wells novel The Sleeper Awakes.[15]

In 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Kim Newman writes that Sleeper's "vision of the future [is] informed by films like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), THX 1138 (1971), and Z.P.G. (1972)."[16]

Douglas Rain, who provided the voice of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, voiced the medical computer in Sleeper.[3]

In a 2007 interview, Allen stated that Sleeper was made as a tribute to the comedians whom he deeply admired: Groucho Marx and Bob Hope.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Box Office Information for Sleeper". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Roger Ebert (December 17, 1973). "Sleeper". Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Dirks, Tim. "Sleeper (1973)". Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  4. ^ "Ginsberg and Cohen: Computerized Fittings, since 2073"
  5. ^ Mile Hi Church of Religious Science, Lakewood, Colorado.
  6. ^ Mike Flanigan, "Out West", Denver Post Magazine, May 2, 1984, pg. 26
  7. ^ Kramer, Peter D. (June 27, 2011). "The Great Proselytizer of Orgasm". Slate. Retrieved July 9, 2011. Orgasmatron is Woody Allen's name, in Sleeper, for a parody of Reich's orgone accumulator, a telephone booth-sized plywood and metal box said to store a healing and enlivening force.
  8. ^ Turner, Christopher (July 8, 2011). "Wilhelm Reich: the man who invented free love". The Guardian. Retrieved July 9, 2011. Woody Allen parodied it in Sleeper (1973), giving it the immortal nickname the "Orgasmatron".
  9. ^ "New York Sound Track". Variety. December 12, 1973. p. 12.
  10. ^ Sleeper at Rotten Tomatoes
  11. ^ Vincent Canby (December 18, 1973). "Sleeper (1973)". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  12. ^ "Briefs On The Arts". The New York Times. September 11, 1974. Retrieved March 30, 2010. 'Sleeper' Comedy Gets Hugo Award Woody Allen's "Sleeper," a comedy set 200 years in the future, has won the Hugo Award as the best film presentation of 1973.
  13. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. 2002. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  14. ^ "The 10 best Woody Allen films". The Guardian. October 4, 2013. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
  15. ^ James Robert Parish, Michael R. Pitts. The great science fiction pictures: Volume 1, Scarecrow Press, 1977. Pg. 298: "Iconoclastic film star /filmmaker Woody Allen turned his comedic genius to a satirical look into the future with a storyline that owes a nod of gratitude to HG Wells' When the Sleeper Awakes."
  16. ^ Schneider, Steven Jay, ed. (2008). 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Quintessence Editions (5th Anniversary/3rd ed.). Hauppauge, New York: Barron's Educational Series. p. 569. ISBN 978-0-7641-6151-3. OCLC 213305397.
  17. ^ Eric Lax (2007). Conversations with Woody Allen. New York City: Knopf. ISBN 978-0375415333.[page needed]

External links[edit]